Rethinking Contracts and Copyrights

Copyrights and Contracts via WordleA free WEBcast presented by Digital Book World

Ebook publishers have unsurprisingly been in the vanguard of offering new terms to authors, often as a way of competing against the big established print houses. In a manifesto on his blog, Richard Nash, the former publisher of print indie Soft Skull, laid out his own version of the change principle: “The publishing industry is in a state of turmoil. New sales channels are arising, new formats, new terms of sale.  Authors deserve the chance to renegotiate as the industry evolves.”

In Nash’s proposed model for his start-up Cursor, authors stop carving out rights. They hand almost everything over to the publishers and give them maximum flexibility to experiment with format, pricing, sampling, enhancements, and territory – BUT, for a very limited time.  At the end of those 3-5 years, everyone reassesses.

A switch to this kind of contract would upend the current business model in publishing and force the legacy businesses into a massive reorganization, probably involving no small degree of shrinkage. Is this the way forward?

In this free WEBcast, Rethinking Contracts and Copyrights, we will explore the conflicts and opportunities presented by digital rights (ebooks and beyond), and discuss alternative models that publishers and authors are experimenting with.

  • Are ebooks a primary or subsidiary right?
  • What are viable alternatives to life-of-copyright contracts?
  • How can publishers fully exploit “a fairly broad basket of rights”?
  • Are such deals in an authors’ best interests?


  • Jason Allen Ashlock is the co-founding Principal and Manager of Movable Type Literary Group, which seeks to meet the needs of an industry in transition by serving authors and publishers at each point on the creative continuum. Prior to MTLG, Mr. Ashlock worked as an Associate Agent with Marianne Strong and Associates, while completing graduate work in both American literature and Religious Studies.
  • Devereux Chatillon is a media and commercial litigator in Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP’s Litigation Practice. During her 30-year career, Ms. Chatillon has worked in all facets of the media and entertainment industry, including most recently as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Scholastic Corporation, the global children’s publishing, education and media company. Ms. Chatillon has also counseled and represented book publishers, movie studios, magazines, newspapers, internet content providers, television and cable entities, and independent film producers.
  • Jim Hanas is the author of Cassingle: Five Stories (2009) and Single: Two Stories (2006), two e-book collections of short stories that previously appeared in McSweeney’s, Fence, One Story, the Land-Grant College Review, Joyland, and elsewhere. In the fall, Joyland and ECW Press will release Why They Cried, an expanded e-book collection including these and other stories.
  • Richard Nash ran Soft Skull Press, now an imprint of Counterpoint, from 2001 to 2007 and ran the imprint on behalf of Counterpoint until early 2009. He’s now consulting for authors and publishers on how to reach readers and developing a start-up called Cursor, a portfolio of niche social publishing communities, one of which will be called Red Lemonade. He was named one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by Utne Reader, and one of “15 Twitter Users Shaping the Future of Publishing” by

Moderated by Emily Williams, co-chair, BISG Rights Subcommittee.

Rethinking Contracts and Copyrights webcast was live on Tuesday, September 28th @ 1pm EDT / 10am PDT. DBW Members can access the on-demand archives.


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